Young athlete battles bullies and tackles stereotypes

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PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Quinn Miller loves the game of football. Period.

“I like receiving the ball,” the 12-year old said. “I like tackling, defense, my teammates and coaches.”

When she suited up for the Darlington Braves, there was never an intention to send a message and no expectation anyone would question her decision to play.

“I love the game,” Miller said. “And I just love watching it.”

Legendary Patriot Ty Law, who also wore the number 24 and played cornerback, inspired Miller to chose that number and position.

Another All-Pro Patriot corner who wears 24, Stephon Gilmore, reached out to show his support for Miller after seeing a clip about her on Twitter.

MORE: Young athlete has Patriots’ Gilmore in her corner

When she’s wearing her gear, opponents know very little about the Brave behind the number 24, other than she plays hard.

“If they see me with my helmet off they act surprised [after I tackled them],” Miller said. “They don’t know [I’m a girl] because I have my hair tucked in.”

Her mom Christine loves her daughter’s love for the game, even if she shudders a bit when her little girl goes shoulder pad to shoulder pad with kids much larger than her.

“As fearful as I am of her being hurt,” Christine said. “I want her to play to her best ability because she loves the game.”

But the hard hits and the occasional stiff-arms are not as difficult to deal with as the critics and the bullies.

“There are days she doesn’t want to go to school on Mondays because she’s sick of being bullied,” Christine said. “Sick of being made fun of because she plays a sport that she loves to play. Sick of the name-calling.”

Quinn does her best not to listen.

“I just try to ignore them,” Quinn said. “I don’t really want to go to school because of that, but I just ignore them through the day and hope they will stop calling me names.”

Her mom said the way Quinn is treated is heartbreaking, but her strength is inspiring.

“I don’t think I could ever be more proud of this girl when she takes that field,” Christine said. “I am so proud of her for standing up for what she loves and what she wants to do.”

Quinn admits it’s not easy to ignore the “haters,” but she also offers some adult advice for any other girls who are leery about the critics that say football is for “boys only.”

“I would tell them it’s not true and they shouldn’t say that,” Quinn said. “Just ignore them and stay strong. I think if they want to play they should play and not be scared and try their best.”

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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